Eva van Emden (she/her), freelance editor

Certified copy editor and proofreader


January 1, 2015

Canadian Copyright Law, 4th ed.: An Updated Guide to Canadian Copyright Law for an Age of Reckless Infringement by Lesley Ellen Harris

Lesley Ellen Harris: Canadian Copyright Law
ISBN: 978-1-118-0751-8
October 2013, 368 pp.
When it comes to producing anxiety in writers and editors, copyright is right up there with citation styles, libel, and the correct use of the subjunctive mood. Most people get by on a combination of hearsay and superstition (“Mrs. Thistlebottom said it’s always OK to quote less than fifty words” . . . “It’s for noncommercial use” . . . “It’s in a public place” . . . “We have to change that to ‘candy bar’”), and that doesn’t work too badly until it comes to publishing online, where the stories sometimes get weird. I’ve seen people ask whether they can publish a URL without permission, while others have tried to claim that nothing on the web has any copyright protection (see “But honestly Monica”).

Lesley Ellen Harris’s Canadian Copyright Law is a readable, complete introduction to Canadian copyright law, covering text, photographs, art, video, music, and more. Harris explains what types of intellectual property fall under copyright as opposed to patents, trademarks, industrial design protection, and trade secrets. She summarizes what rights are included in copyright, how they can be exploited, and how copyright is infringed, and discusses how violations are handled. She also explains how to license content and gives some guidelines on fair dealing. There’s discussion of international copyright treaties, and a full chapter on US copyright law.

The book contained just about everything I wanted to know, and it was well organized and easy to understand. It’s quite a reasonable length, so you can realistically read it cover to cover. The author seems to take a neutral point of view, which is helpful given that there is some controversy over how to interpret recent Supreme Court decisions. I think the book takes into account the results of the “copyright pentalogy,” five decisions by the Canadian Supreme Court on copyright that were delivered on July 12, 2012, but there’s no direct discussion or analysis of the cases. This book seems like an excellent starting point for the lay reader who needs to get a grip on how to protect, license, and use creative works.

Lesley Ellen Harris is a lawyer, writer, and teacher who specializes in copyright law.

Accompanying material online

Reviewed from a copy borrowed from the library.